The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'czechoslovakia'
Here passes a great man: Vaclav Havel, the Czechoslovakian dissident playwright who led the pro-democracy movement and became the country's first (and last) post-Communist President, then continuing to be President of the newly formed Czech Republic, has died aged 73.
Two culturally influential Czechs have died in the past two days: Ivan Jirous, 67, who had been the artistic director of the underground psychedelic rock group The Plastic People of the Universe, which was a core of the more absurdist wing of the dissident movement after the Soviet-backed crackdown on the Prague Spring, and Zdenek Miler, 90, creator of the cartoon character Krtek (or "Little Mole").
Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being, a story of bohemian, intellectual bootywhang in Communist Prague, has acquired a reputation as a standard seduction prop. Though, according to Maciej Ceglowski, it is a very mediocre book; the literary equivalent of one of those high-concept Working Title films that purports to be sophisticated art-house fare for people who like the aura of intellectuality without the arduous chore of being made to think (or, for that matter, read subtitles):
Milan Kundera is the Dave Matthews of Slavic letters, a talented hack, certainly a hack who's paid his dues, but a hack nonetheless. And by his own admission, this is his worst book. If you strip off the exoticism of Brezhnev-era Czechoslovakia (this rinses off easily in soapy water), you are left with a book full of vapid characters bouncing against each other like little perfectly elastic balls of condensed ego. And every twenty pages the story steps outside for a cigarette so that the author can deliver a short philosophical homily. Kundera has a sterile, cleanroom writing style meant to suggest that he is a surgeon expertly dissecting the human condition before your eyes, but if you look a little more closely, you see he's just performing an autopsy on a mannequin. Or more accurately, a RealDoll.Ceglowski goes on to recommend a set of books by Slavic authors much better than Kundera, and rate their date-impressing potential. He's right on the money for The Master and Margarita (in terms of it being a cracking good read, at least), and I get the feeling that I'm going to have to read Adventures of the Good Soldier Svejk.